May 10, 2011
The southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari, sometimes referred to as the Cape Comorin, is a tourist attraction and is also a place of great religious importance for the Hindus. Kanyakumari is a spectacular place where one can witness colourful sunrises and sunsets and it is the only place where tourists can feast their eyes witnessing the magnificent spectacle of the sun setting on the west and the moon rising on the east simultaneously from the same spot on full moon days. It is probably the only place in the world where one can see the confluence of three seas – the Indian Ocean, the Arabean Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Needless to say Kanyakumari attracts tourists in hordes throughout the year (2 million every year) to witness its sumptuousness and also to bask in its enduring glory.
With such impeccable credentials about Kanyakumari a group of 7 colleagues who were attending a workshop in Trivandrum (about 87 kms from Kanyakumari), took the opportunity that came on our way one afternoon and we hired a car and headed towards Kanyakumari. It took us nearly 2 ½ hours to cover the distance from Nagarcoil the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District as the slight drizzle hampered our onward journey. The sunset was scheduled at 6.17 pm and we reached the place before 5 pm. As expected the place was teeming with tourists of all hues who were waiting to witness the sunset.
With enough time at our disposal before sunset we enjoyed watching the convergence of the waves of three seas just a few meters ahead of the twin rocks where the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial and the monument of Saint Tiruvalluvar stand. Watching the waves that met quietly from three sides and withering away and also the waves that hit the rocks to form milky water on the rocks brought about a soothing and refreshing feeling in us. Tucking these memorable moments in our minds we headed towards the viewer’s gallery to occupy a vantage position to view the sunset and I kept pace with Rajavelu from our group (from Chennai) who added to my existing knowledge of Kanyakumari providing some interesting tidbits. Unfortunately for us, viewing the sunset proved to be a damp squib as the cloudy sky played the spoilsport and we could just get a glimpse of the sun for a few seconds only.
But that did not dampen our spirits as there is much more to see in Kanyakumari other than sunrise and sunset. Kanyakumari takes its name from Kanya Devi or Kanyakumari temple situated on the sea shore, at the confluence of the three seas. According to mythology Goddess Parvati under the disguise of Devi Kanniya did a penance on one of the rocks to get married to Siva. However, Siva failed to show on the wedding day and the rice and the grains meant for the D day turned into stones with the passage of time. Some even believe that the small stones which look like rice on the shore are grains of the wedding which was never solemnized. Kanya Devi is still considered as a virgin goddess, who blesses pilgrims and tourists who throng to this pilgrim centre.
In the middle of the sea about 400 meters from the coastline there are two rocks known popularly as “twin rocks” on which the monuments of Swami Vivekananda and Saint Tiruvalluvar are located. And then there is also the Gandhi Mandap, which is also another major attraction of Kanyakumari. The bigger rock which is above 55 above sea level is known as Vivekananda Rock. In 1892 Swami Vivekananda visited Kanyakumari, spent his time on the rock in deep meditation before he started teaching Indian Philosophy. A memorial was built in 1970 by the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee in honour of his visit. The memorial consists of two main structures – the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam. It is said that the monument was hit by the Tsunami of 2004. Ferry service to and from the Rock memorial between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm. But unfortunately by the time we reached Kanyakumari it was late and we could not go inside the Memorial.
From the new millennium there has been an added attraction in Kanyakumari in the form of the statue of Tamil poet and Saint Tiruvalluvar. It is located just next to the Vivekananda Rock memorial and the 133 feet tall stone sculpture was opened on January 1, 2000, after several years in the dock. The foundation stone for the same was laid by the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1979 but funds were provided only in 1990-91. It was designed by well known Dr V Ganapati Stapati, who is also the sculptor of the Iraivan temple. The statue is said to be a marvel, a fitting tribute to the poet saint.
The Gandhi Mandap is another landmark that adds to the rich heritage of Kanyakumari. The ashes of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi were immersed in the sea confluence of Kanyakumari in 1948. Before the immersion, homage was paid to the ashes and it was Gandhi’s disciple Acharya Kripalani who took the efforts to construct the memorial in memory of Gandhi in 1954 and the Mandap came into being in 1956.
The area is filled with swarming millions who flock to the area especially during the holiday season. There is enough commercial activity in the area, considering that tourists from all over the country flock to the area.
At 7.30 pm we bid goodbye to Kanyakumari without waiting to try our luck for watching the sunrise and on our way back to Trivandrum we visited Suchindrum temple, just about 7 kms from Nagarcoile. This temple which is an architectural marvel was built in the 17th century houses a linga representing trinity i. e Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva renowned as Sthanumalaya Swami. The sculpture of the temple is simply magnificent as it depicts the splendid sculptures of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Suchindram Temple has a very tall Hanuman statue. The other added attraction of the temple is the musical pillars carved out of a single rock which give out 7 swaras when hit, to leave one enthralled.
We were famished by now and a good dinner at Tirunelveli was what we were all looking forward to. Our car driver stopped at a good hotel where we savoured dosas to gratify our hunger. As the traffic had thinned down we were back in Trivandrum by 10.30 pm and needless to say many of us had dozed off during the journey. Some chatter boxes kept themselves awake and also the car driver.
I have a regret not being able to go inside the historic memorials and for not feeling them from close quarters. But then it is worth to have a dekho once again and a next visit to Kanyakumari tops my list of priorities on the places I would like to visit.